Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Cemetery Boys by Heather Brewer

The Cemetery Boys by Heather Brewer
Release Date - March 31, 2015
Publisher Website - Harper Collins
Publisher Social Media - Twitter/Facebook/SavvyReader/Frenzy
Pages - 288 pages
My Rating - 3/5
**received for an honest review from publisher**

Here is the Goodreads synopsis
When Stephen is forced to move back to the nowhere town where his father grew up, he’s already sure he’s not going to like it. Spencer, Michigan, is like a town straight out of a Hitchcock movie, with old-fashioned people who see things only in black-and-white. But things start looking up when Stephen meets the mysterious twins Cara and Devon. They’re total punks–hardly the kind of people Stephen’s dad wants him hanging out with–but they’re a breath of fresh air in this backward town. The only problem is, Cara and Devon don’t always get along, and as Stephen forms a friendship with the charismatic Devon and something more with the troubled Cara, he starts to feel like he’s getting caught in the middle of a conflict he doesn’t fully understand. And as Devon’s group of friends, who hang out in a cemetery they call The Playground, get up to increasingly reckless activities to pass the summer days, Stephen worries he may be in over his head.

Stephen’s fears prove well-founded when he learns of Spencer’s dark past. It seems the poor factory town has a history of “bad times,” and many of the town’s oldest residents attribute the bad times to creatures right out of an urban legend. The legend goes that the only way the town will prosper again is if someone makes a sacrifice to these nightmarish creatures. And while Stephen isn’t one to believe in old stories, it seems Devon and his gang might put a lot of faith in them. Maybe even enough to kill for them.

Now, Stephen has to decide what he believes, where his allegiances lie, and who will really be his friend in the end. 
The Cemetery Boys was high on my most anticipated list for this year. With shades of the movie The Lost Boys, cults, and creepy urban legends this should have been a compelling, absorbing read for me. Sadly, while all the elements are there, it didn't quite come together as I had hoped.

The biggest issue, for me, is that I don't think the novel was long enough. The back story, and character connections needed for this story type to really work just were not given enough time to form within the story. The mythology of the 'Winged Ones' and how Devon and his gang came to be felt like light brush strokes instead of the driving force they should have been. The building of romantic relationships and friendships seemed lightening quick to me with little reasoning behind them. The story needs you to believe in these connections for it to impact you and I just didn't feel invested in any of the characters.

With that said, I fully enjoyed Heather's writing. She has a humour that seems tailor made to characters like Stephen and she creates atmosphere within a scene incredibly well. Her writing makes it clear that she is very comfortable in this genre as well. It was easy to see why she has such a fan following.

One of my favourite 80's movies ever is The Lost Boys. It stars the 'Two Coreys' and is generally a campy, fun vampire movie. This novel is filled with little moments that made me think of that movie. The 'initiation' into the group felt like an homage, deadly secrets that the main character doesn't find out until it's too late is something mirrored in each. Devon, the leader, even had a very similar vibe to Kiefer Sutherland's character in the movie. These whispers of inspiration delighted me and were some of my favourite parts of the novel. The inspiration didn't feel overused, and felt natural into the story Heather was crafting.

This is a creepy, unsettling story. Particularly the elements dealing with group mentality and how easily a charismatic leader can influence. I wish more attention would have been paid to this aspect of the story. The mythology wasn't the driving force behind the scares this novel offered, it was the element of human nature and, for me, that got overlooked. There are scary moments, mostly because of Heather's skill with creating mood, but I personally wanted more from this aspect of the story. There was plenty to be explored and it felt under developed.

I think that with more expansion, a deeper background into the legend that haunts these pages, and a more believable connection between the characters that I could have enjoyed this story much more than I did. I am sure fans of Heather Brewer's previous novels will find much to love within these pages. I, personally, think it's a case of wanting more than chills and thrills from this read and not finding the deeper details that would have brought the story to life for me.

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